In the Loop

  • What's Up With the Trees on the Loop?



    Photo Credit: Mccunicano/Wikimedia Commons

    RIP Loop trees.

    Or what’s down, rather. Many readers have noticed that trees on the Loop are being cut down and have asked who’s doing it and why. It’s the state Department of Transportation, and they say they’re thinning the trees for safety reasons.

    “We are doing vegetation management along the corridor the last few weeks,” GDOT spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. “Trees can be a hazard for roadways in many instances. Winter weather, along with other storms, can take trees down across power lines and also block routes. We also have seen pedestrians and drivers injured by trees located too close to our right of way.”

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.


  • Deal Intervenes in Piedmont-BCBS Dispute

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    Just a few hours after this post went live, Gov. Nathan Deal waded into the reimbursement dispute between Piedmont Healthcare, which owns Piedmont Athens Regional and several other Georgia hospitals, and Blue Cross Blue Shield that has thrown thousands of Athens workers and their families out of network.

    Deal ordered both sides back to the negotiating table late Tuesday afternoon to hammer out a new contract setting reimbursement rates for Piedmont doctors and procedures. The last one expired at midnight Saturday, affecting almost 600,000 state employees on BCBS plans.

    If an equitable solution is not reached, I’ve directed the Department of Community Health and the State Health Benefit Plan to explore all possible solutions to ensure our members have access to care," Deal said in a news release. "The university system stands ready to take similar action on behalf of its employees. "


  • Watch the Flagpole/DT Productions Mayoral Forum


    Insert your own thought bubbles.

    Last Thursday, Flagpole teamed with local video producers DT Productions and the Red & Black to live-stream a forum featuring mayoral candidates Kelly Girtz, Richie Knight and Harry Sims.

    The candidates faced questions from me and fellow moderatoes Lisee Pullara, the R&B's editor in chief, and DT President Andrew Levy on topics ranging from affordable housing to sexual assault to the Athens airport.

    About 6,000 people watched the forum live on Facebook and Twitter, but in case you missed it—or it was just so entertaining, you feel compelled to watch it again and again—here it is!


  • Deadline Passes Without Piedmont-Blue Cross Blue Shield Deal



    "We checked your bank account, and no, I'm sorry, we can't remove your brain tumor."

    A deadline for Piedmont Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s parent company, Anthem, to reach a deal on a new contract came and went at midnight Mar. 31. While all hope isn’t lost, for now, thousands of UGA, ACC and Clarke County School District employees, among others, will have to either pay higher out-of-pocket costs or find new doctors.

    While the contract has expired, emergency room visits at Piedmont Athens Regional will still be considered in-network for BCBS customers.

    Piedmont Healthcare, which owns Piedmont Athens Regional, sued Blue Cross Blue Shield in February after the insurance company decided it would no longer pay for MRIs and CT scans performed in hospitals, only at less expensive outpatient clinics. The two companies are also locked in a dispute over how much BCBS should reimburse Piedmont doctors.


  • Kelly Girtz Releases Affordable Housing Plan

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    Athens-Clarke County commissioner and mayoral candidate Kelly Girtz released a plan Friday to deal with Athens' affordable housing problem.

    2016 study found that middle-income families are leaving Clarke County because they can't afford to buy a home here. The median home price rose from $153,000 in 2013 to $172,000 in 2015 while incomes did not keep pace.

    “Finding affordable housing in Athens is a real challenge for many of us," Girtz said in a news release. "Some seniors are getting priced out of neighborhoods they’ve lived in for their whole lives. Working people have trouble finding single-family homes they can afford. The good news this is a problem that local government can do something about, and if I’m elected mayor, we’ll make housing more affordable.”

    Girtz's plan includes:


  • Flagpole Teams With DT Productions to Live-Stream Mayoral Forum Thursday


    Flagpole is teaming up with Normaltown video producers DT Productions to live-stream a mayoral forum starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 29.

    The forum will feature all three candidates—Kelly Girtz, Richie Knight and Harry Sims. It will be moderated by me, former Flagpole intern Nate Harris (now a senior reporter at the Red & Black) and DT Productions co-founder Andrew Levy.

    Each candidate will be asked three questions in each of three categories: economy and housing, public safety and education, and community. We welcome ideas for questions from readers, so feel free to leave yours in the comments. There will also be an opportunity to suggest questions on Facebook during the forum.

    The forum will be streamed on DT Productions' Facebook page,


  • RIP HOPE Scholarship Founder Zell Miller


    Zell Miller, the cantankerous former Georgia governor and senator who had a more profound effect on the University of Georgia than any governor since perhaps Eugene Talmadge, died today at the age of 86.


  • Pedestrian Killed on Commerce Road

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    A driver killed a woman around 10 p.m. Tuesday while she was crossing Commerce Road near the Bulldog Inn, according to Athens-Clarke County police.

    Kimberly Pierce, 52, was killed by a '90s-model green Honda with tinted windows. The driver  and car left the scene after hitting Pierce. The car likely sustained front-end damage.

    Investigators are working to obtain surveillance footage from nearby businesses and believe there were witnesses to the hit-and-run. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Butt 706-208-1718, extension 226.


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